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ing all such indirect modes of aiding particular objects. In a government like ours, more especially, should all public acts be, as far as practicable, simple, undisguised, and intelligible, that they may become fit subjects for the approbation or animadversion of the people. "The bill authorizing a subscription to the Louisville and Portland canal affords a striking illustration of the difficulty of withholding additional appropriations for the same object, when the first erroneous step has been taken, by instituting a part nership between the government and private companies. It proposes a third subscription on the part of the United States, when each preceding one was at the time regarded as the extent of the aid which government was to sender to that work; and the accompanying bill for light-houses, &c., contains an appropriation for the survey of the bed of the river, with a view to its improvement, by removing the obstruction which the canal is designed to avoid. This improvement, if successful, would afford a free passage to the river, and render the canal entirely useless. To such improvidence is the course of legislation subject, in relation to internal improvements on local matters, even with the best intentions on the part of Congress.
Although the motives which have influenced me in this matter may be already sufficiently stated, I am nevertheless induced by its importance to add a few observations of a general character.
In my objections to the bills authorizing subscriptions to the Maysville and Rockville road companies, I expressed my views fully in regard to the power of Congress to construct roads and canals within the state, or to appropriate money for improvements of a local character. I at the same time intimate my belief that the right to make appropriations for such as were of a national character had been so generally acted upon, and so long acquiesced in by the federal and state governments, and the cons.ituents of each, as to justify its exercise on the ground of continued and uninterrupted usage ; but thai it was, nevertheless, highly expedient that appropriations, even of that character, should, with the exception made at the time, be deferred until the national debt is paid, and that, in the meanwhile, some general jule for the action of the government in that respect ought to be established
These suggestions were not necessary to the decision of the question then before me; and were, I readily admit, intended to awaken the attention and draw forth the opinions and observations of our constituents, upon a subject of the highest importance to their interests, and one destined to exert a powerful influence upon the future operations of our political system. I know of no tribunal to which a public man in this country, in a case of doubt and difficulty, can appeal with greater advantage or more propriety than the judgment of the people; and although I must necessarily, in the discharge of iny official duties, be governed by the dictates of my own judg. ment, I have no desire to conceal my anxious wish to conform, as far as I can, to the views of those for whom I act.
All irregular expressions of public opinion are of necessity attended with some doubt as to their accuracy; but making full allowances on that account, I cannot, I think, deceive myself in believing that the acts referred to, as well as the suggestions which I allowed myself to make in relation to their bearing upon the future operations of the government, have been approved by the great body of the people. That those whose immediate pecuniary interes s are to be affected by proposed expenditures, should shrink from the
application of a rule which prefers their more general and remote interests to those which are personal and immediate, is to be expected. But even such objections must, from the nature of our population, be but temporary in their duration; and if it were otherwise, our course should be the same; for the time is yet, I hope, far distant, when those intrusted with power to be exercised for the good of the whole, will consider it either honest or wise to purchase local favor at the sacrifice of principle and general good.
So understanding public sentiment, and thoroughly satisfied that the best interests of our common country imperiously require that the course which I have recommended in this regard should be adopted, I have, upon the most mature consideration, determined to pursue it
. It is due to candor, as well as to my own feelings, that I should express the reluctance and anxiety which I must at all times experience in exercising the undoubted right of the executive to withhold his assent from bills on other grounds than their unconstitutionality. That this right should not be exercised on slight occasions, all will admit. It is only in matters of deep interest, when the principle involved may be justly regarded as next in importance to infractions of the constitution itself
, that such a step can be expected to meet with the approbation of the people. Such an occasion do I conscientiously believe the present to be. In the discharge of this delicate and highly responsible duty, I am sustained by the reflection that the exercise of this power has been deemed consistent with the obligations of official duty by several of my predecessors; and by the persuasion, too, that whatever liberal institutions may have to fear from the encroachments of executive power, which has been everywhere the cause of so much strife and bloody contention, but little danger is to be apprehended from a precedent by which the authority denies to itself the exercise of powers that bring in their train influence and patronage of great extent; and thus excludes the operation of personal interests, everywhere the bane of official trust. I derive, too, no small degree of satisfaction from the reflection that, if I have mistaken the interests and wishes of the people, the constitution affords the means of soon redressing the error, by selecting for the place their favor has bestowed upon me a citizen whose opinions may accord with
I trust, in the mean time, the interests of the nation will be saved from prejudice, by a rigid, application of that portion of the public funds which might otherwise be applied to different objects—to that highest of all our obligations, the payment of the public debt, and an opportunity be afforded for the adoption of some better rule for the operations of the government in this matter, than any which has hitherto been acted upon.
Profoundly impressed with the importance of the subject, not merely as it relates to the general prosperity of the country, but to the safety of the federal system, I cannot avoid repeating my earnest hope that all good citizens, who take a
proper interest in the success and harmony of our admirable political institutions, and who are incapable of desiring to convert an opposite state of things into means for the gratification of personal ambitionwill, laying aside minor considerations, and discarding local prejudices, unite their honest exertions to establish some fixed general principle which shall be calculated to effect the greatest extent of public good in regard to the subject of internal improvement, and afford the least ground for sectional discontent.
The general ground of my objection to local appropriations has been heretofore expressed; and I shall endeavor to avoid a repetition of what has
been already urged, -the importance of sustaining the state sovereignties as far as is consistent with the rightful action of the federal government
, and of preserving the greatest attainable harmony between them. I will now only add an expression of my conviction-a conviction which every day's experience serves to confirm—thatthe political creed which inculcates the pursuit of those greal otjects as a paramount duty, is the true faith, and one to which we are mainly indebled for the present success of the entire system; and to which we must alone look for its future stability.
That there are diversities in the interests of the difierent states which compose this extensive confederacy, must be admitted. Those diversities arising from situation, climate, population, and pursuits, are doubtless, as it is natural they should be, greatly exaggerated by jealousies, and that spirit of rivalry so inseparable from neighboring communities. These circumstances make it the duty of those who are intrusted with the management of its affairs, to neutralize their effects as far as practicable, by making the beneficial operation of the federal government as equal and equitable among the several states as can be done consistently with the great ends of its institution.
It is only necessary to refer to undoubted facts, to see how far the past acts of the government upon the subject under consideration have fallen short of this object
. The expenditures heretofore made for internal improvements amount to upwards of five millions of dollars, and have been distributed in very unequal proportions among the stales. The estimated expense of works, of which surveys have been made, together with that of others projected and partially surveyed, amounts to more than ninety-six millions of dollars. That such improvements, on account of particular circumstances, may
be more advantageously and beneficially made in some states than in others, is doubtless true; but that they are of a character which should prevent an equitable distribution of the funds among the several states, is not to be conceded. The want of this equitable distribution cannot fail to prove a prolific source of irritation
the states. We have it constantly before our eyes, that profession of superior zeal in the cause of internal improvement, and a disposition to lavish the public funds upon objects of this character, are daily and earnestly put forth by aspirants to power, as constituting the highest claims 10 the confidence of the people. Would it be strange, under such circumstances, and in times of great excitement, that grants of this description should find their motives in objects which may not accord with the public good? Those who have not had occasion to see and regret the indication of a sinister influence in these matters in past times, have been more fortunate than myself in their observations of the course of public affairs If to these evils be added the combinations and angry contentions to which such a course of things gives rise, with their baleful influences upon the legislation of Congress
, touching the leading and appropriate duties of the federal government, it was but doing justice to the character of our people to expect the severe condemnation of the past, which the recent exhibition of public sentiment has evinced.
Nothing short of a radical change in the action of the government upon the subject can, in my opinion, remedy the evil. If
, as it would be natural to expect, the states which have been least favored in past appropriations should insist on being redressed in those hereafter to be made, at ihe expense
of the states which have so largely and disproportionately participated, wo have, as matters now stand, but little security that the attempt would do more han change the inequality from one quarter to another.
Thus viewing the subject, I have heretofore felt it my duty to recommend the adoption of some plan for the distribution of the surplus funds, which may at any time remain in the treasury afier the national debt shall have been paid, among the states, in proportion to the number of their representatives, to be applied by them to objects of internal improvement.
Although this plan has met with favor in some portions of the Union, it has also elicited objections which merit deliberate consideration. A brief notice of these objections here, will not therefore, I trust, be regarded as out of place.
They rest, as far as they have come to my knowledge, on the following grounds : 1st, an objection to the ratio of distribution; 2d, an apprehension that the existence of such a regulation would produce an improvident and oppressive taxation to raise the funds for distribution ; 3d, that the mode proposed would lead to the construction of works of a local nature, to the exclusion of such as are general, and as would consequently be of a more useful character; and last, that it would create a discreditable and injurious dependence on the part of the state governments upon the federal power. Of those who object to the ratio of representation as the basis of distribution, some insist that the importations of the respective states would constitute one that would be more equitable; and others again, that the extent of their respective territories would furnish a standard which would be more expedient and sufficiently equitable. The ratio of representation presented itself to my mind, and it still does, as one of obvious equity, because of its being the ratio of contribution, whether the funds to be distributed be derived from the customs or froin direct taxation. It does not follow, however, that its adoption is indispensable to the establishment of the system proposed. There may be considerations appertaining to the subject which would render a departure, to some extent, from the rule of contribution proper. Nor is it absolutely necessary that the basis of distribution be confined to one ground. It may, if, in the judgment of those whose right it is 10 fix it, it be deemed politic and just to give it that character, hare regard to several
In my first message, I stated it to be my opinion that it is not probable that any adjustment of the tariff upon principles satisfactory to the people of the Union will, until a remote period, if ever, leave the government without a considerable surplus in the treasury beyond what may be required for its current service. I have had no cause to change that opinion, but much to confirm it. Should these expectations be realized, a suitable fund would thus be produced for the plan under corsideration to operate upon; and if there be no such fund, its adoption will, in my opinion, work no injury to any interest; for I cannot assent to the jnstness of the apprehension that the establishment of the proposed system would tend 10 the encouragement of improvident legislation of the character supposed. Whatever the proper authority in the exercise of constitutional power shall at any time hereafter decide to be for the general good, will, in that as in other respects, deserve and receive the acquiescence and support of the whole country; and we have ample security that every abuse of power in that regard by the agents of the people will receive a speedy and effectual corrective at their hands. The views which I take of the future, founded on the obvious and increasing improvement of all classes of our fellow citizens, in intelligence,
and in public and private virtue, leave me without much apprehension on that head.
I do not doubt that those who come after us will be as much alive as we are to the obligation upon all the trustees of political power to exempt those for whom they act from all unnecessary burdens; and as sensible of the great truth, that the resources of the nation, beyond those required for the immediate and necessary purposes of government, can nowhere be so well deposited as in the pockets of the people. It
may sometimes happen that the interests of particular states would not be deemed to coincide with the general interests in relation 10 improvement within such state. But, if the danger to be apprehended from this source is sufficient to require it, a discretion might be reserved to Congress to direct, to such improvement of a general character as the states concerned might not be disposed to unite in, the application of the quotas of those states, under the restriction of confining to each state the expenditure of its appropriate quota. It may, however, be assumed as a safe general rule, that such improvements as serve to increase the prosperity of the respective states in which they are made, by giving new facilities to trade, and thereby aug. menting the wealth and comfort of their inhabitants, constitute the surest mode of conferring permanent and substantial advantages upon the whole The strength, as well as the true glory of the confederacy, is founded on the prosperity and power of the several independent sovereignties of which it is composed, and the certainty with which they can be brought into successful active co-operation, through the agency of the federal government.
It is, moreover, within the knowledge of such as are at all conversant with public affairs, that schemes of internal improvement have from time to time been proposed, which, from their extent and seeming magnificence, were regarded as of national concernment; but which, upon fuller consideration and farther experience, would now be rejected with great unanimity.
That the plan under consideration would derive important advantages from its certainty; and that the moneys set apart for these purposes would be more judiciously applied and economically expended under the direction of the state legislatures, in which every part of each state is immediately represented, cannot, I think, be doubted. In the new states particularly
, where a comparatively small population is scattered over an extensive surface, and the representation in Congress consequently very limited, it is natural to expect that the appropriations made by the federal goveroment would be more likely to be expended in the vicinity of those members through whose immediate agency they were obtained, than if the funds were placed under the control of the legislature, in which every county of the state has its own representative. This supposition does not necessarily impuga the motives of such congressional representatives, nor is it so intended. We are all sensible of the bias to which the strongest minds and purest hearts are, under such circumstances, liable. In respect to the last objection, ils probable effect upon the dignity and independence of the state governments, it appears to me only necessary to state the case as it is, and as it would be if the measures proposed were adopted, to show that the operation is most likely to be the very reverse of that which the objection supposes.
In the one case, the state would receive ils quota of the national revenue for domestic use upon a fixed principle, as a matter of right, and from a fund to the creation of which it had itself contributed its fair proportion.